Manchester elections: Candidates for alderman, school board: Wards 10, 11, 12, at-large | New Hampshire
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Manchester elections: Candidates for alderman, school board: Wards 10, 11, 12, at-large

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 17. 2017 10:00PM




MANCHESTER — City voters will head to the polls Tuesday to cast ballots in the 2017 municipal primary election. Primaries for school board and alderman exist in several wards across Manchester, along with the citywide mayoral race.

Polls will be open Tuesday, Sept. 19 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Primary races exist for alderman seats in wards 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12. Races exist for seats on the Board of School Committee in just two wards — 6 and 12. Four candidates are running for mayor.

The New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News sent three questions to alderman, mayoral and school board candidates to provide a short profile on them. Candidates were asked to limit responses to 50 words or less.

Today’s Union Leader presents the latest installment in a multi-day series showcasing those responses. Responses from mayoral candidates ran on Saturday. All of the responses are available online at UnionLeader.com.

These are the questions:

1. Do you support making Manchester a sanctuary city? Why or why not?

2. Do you support a tax cap override to fund salary increases for city and school district employees?

3. What is the top issue facing the city/schools, and how would you address it?

Today’s responses are from candidates for alderman and school board in Wards 10, 11, 12 and at-large candidates.

Aldermen

Ward 10

Bill Barry, 57

Law enforcement

1. I am a life long resident of Manchester. I am very proud of the fact that we have always welcomed people from throughout the world to our city. If anyone is here and has broken the law, then our law enforcement agencies should do whatever is necessary to make sure that all of our residents are safe and protected.

2. I respect the fact that a majority of our voters elected to impose a tax cap and the ability of the Aldermen to override the tax cap when it is necessary to run our city efficiently. I will continue to keep our tax rate as low as possible and continue my promise to lower our crime rate, make sure that our children receive the best education possible and continue to fix our roads and infrastructure. Our city employees need to be treated fairly. I am very proud of the fact that our tax rate has gone down the past few years and it appears that this year our tax rate will remain the same.

3. The biggest problem in our schools is the underfunding that we see year after year. If we continue to underfund our schools, classrooms will remain overcrowded. Our superintendent has done a very good job seeking the state and federal funding that we have been promised.

Tammy Simmons

Office Manager, J&R Langley Co.

1. No. I think Manchester has a vibrant, diverse population that includes both immigrants and refugees that are here legally. If Manchester is willing to apply for and accept federal monies for law enforcement, then we’ll have to agree to the strings that the federal government attaches to that money.

2. Like the City Charter, the cap must be respected. Short of a TRUE emergency, i.e. unexpected building or road collapse, I wouldn’t vote to override the tax & spending cap. People have to live within their means — the city needs to live within theirs by prioritizing and spending more efficiently.

3. There is no one issue. Safe stations and drug courts are good starts to addressing our opioid crisis, but Manchester cannot do it all. We must work with the State on treatment options and funding. I agree with Chief Willard: we cannot arrest our way out of this.

Ward 11

Normand Gamache, 79

Retired

1. Manchester has always welcomed immigrants, including my own family. However, I do not believe the city should harbor individuals who have not gone through the immigration process as determined by federal law. Further, any individual who has not followed this process and has committed crimes elsewhere should not be allowed to reside in our city.

2. Every effort should be made to fund all city and school services within the allotted tax cap. These services include personnel costs as agreed upon through the collective bargaining process.

3. The opioid epidemic needs to be addressed sufficiently. It affects families throughout our city and I am committed to working with and allotting public safety officials the resources to fully address it and make our homes, streets and schools safe.

Russ Ouellette, 50

Assistant Service Manager, Quirk Volkswagen

1. No I do not. Sanctuary cities have taken a stance against assisting the federal government in enforcing federal immigration laws. People who have entered this country illegally or over stayed their work visas should not be granted a blanket of protection. Manchester does not have the means to support such a policy.

2. Absolutely not! The provision in overriding the tax cap should only be used on an emergency basis only, as the voters who overwhelmingly supported it intended it to be used. Salaries and benefits are not what I consider to be an emergency. We need to elect public officials who have a commitment to responsible budgeting with the restraint of living within our means.

3. Public safety. As past-president of Rimmon Heights Neighborhood Group, I know the great strides our police department has made in decreasing the crime rate. We must have all of our city departments partner in becoming proactive to make Manchester a place where people will want to raise their families. Our neighborhoods are riddled with absentee landlords, vacant rundown buildings, and the opioid epidemic, all which are contributing factors to crime in our area.

Andre Rosa, 35

Software Developer at Harvard Medical

1. I do not support making Manchester a sanctuary city. In case there is any confusion, the refugees in Manchester are legal immigrants. They are an asset to this community. That said, the federal government is leveraging funds to get Manchester to comply to their priorities. I do not appreciate that.

2. No. The voters spoke clearly when they endorsed the tax cap. The budget is unsustainable as is. The salary and benefit packages given to city employees are competitive. However, if we can make significant cuts and truly innovate services, thus freeing up money, then measured compensation increases can be considered.

3. The opioid crisis has affected our way of life (for example, the smoking ban, homelessness, property crimes, so on). I applaud the Fire Department for the Safe Station program. I agree with Chief Willard. We cannot arrest our way out of this. The city should focus on rehabilitation, not prosecution.

Armand D. Forest

Declined to respond

Ward 12

Keith D. Hirschmann, 57

Business Owner SecurityNet LLC

1. Absolutely no. Criminal illegal aliens in our country are breaking our laws, they are often found breaking laws to conceal their original crime, identity theft, stolen Social Security numbers, false drivers licenses, and felony crimes against our citizens, rape and murder. We need to be able to protect our citizens.

2. No. I support the tax cap approved by the voters of Manchester. All agreements must fit into the budget. I do not approve of liberal aldermen raiding our reserve accounts for contracts either.

3. Drug proliferation. I have committed to fully funding our police department to combat the pipeline of out of state drugs in conjunction with the DEA, the U.S. marshals, border patrol and the state police, strong enforcement combined with drug court and recovery efforts are the path to a much better Manchester.

Hassan Essa, 20

Full-time student at UNH Manchester, an ophthalmologic technician at Excellent Vision in Portsmouth, and member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard

1. As a refugee who arrived in Manchester in 2000, I intimately understand the challenges facing immigrants coming to our city. Manchester’s safety is a priority. We need to make sure both those who are documented and undocumented know they can comfortably call our police and fire departments during an emergency.

2. Ensuring that our teachers and public service employees are provided with fair, livable salaries is critical to ensuring that our city continues to grow and thrive. By doing this, we will help to improve the quality of education our students receive and that our city has the best possible outcomes.

3. The top issue facing the city and schools is a lack of adequate funding. Hiring a full-time grant writer will bring more resources to Manchester and potentially ease the burden on the city’s taxpayers.

Joel Elber

1. It is important in these times that Manchester, as well as our state and federal governments, adheres to the rule of the law. Neither as a citizen and as an elected official, I cannot advocate city employees not cooperating with the federal government. It is important to note that neither Manchester, or the state of New Hampshire, have passed laws or ordinances that would make either government a “sanctuary,” in legal terms. Morally, the issue of sanctuary is one for our individual consciences. I advocate that the city of Manchester create a Commission on Human Rights to foster a dialogue on issues of race, creed, color and immigration status, with the goal of adopting policies that promote equal opportunity for everyone, and ensure that all the people of Manchester are treated with dignity and respect, and within the rule of the law.

2. I support the Charter of the City of Manchester, and the tax cap is part of that Charter. Overriding the tax cap is serious business, and an override only is warranted in cases where to not properly fund a department would cause a serious degradation in the public safety and general welfare. The serious under funding of the Manchester Police Department, due to parsimonious budgets, allowed drug crime to establish roots in the Queen City during a period when the MPD was seriously understaffed.

3. The number one concern in Manchester is economic growth and development. Without a vibrant business community offering not just jobs but careers, Manchester will not be able to maintain its position as one of the best American cities to live in and in which to raise a family. Modernizing the Queen City’s infrastructure is a top priority, if we are to attract the jobs of the future, and keep our children here at home and attract new residents.

Jonathan Barrett

No responses submitted

At Large

Joseph Kelly Levasseur

1. No, no way, absolutely not and the reason is simple, we should never put out a welcome mat for criminals — we have enough already.

2. Although I have supported a revenue override I do not support any budget that overrides the CPI number or what is better known as a tax cap override. There is a difference.

3. Employee compensation is completely out of whack compared to the private sector. The Yarger-Decker system gives city employees an automatic annual 3 percent increase for 14 years straight plus longevity increases in years 5-10-15 and so on. That is on top of annual COLA’s. Promotions give even higher increases. You get the step increase for simply showing up for work. The original idea behind the merit based system was an annual evaluation of each employee, of which 3 to 5 percent of the total amount of city employees were to get a top step, for the past 15 years it morphed into an automatic increase for each year. Totally insane.

SCHOOL BOARD

Ward 10

John Avard, 49

Doctor of Chiropractic, self-employed.

1. No. I believe that the leaders of the city of Manchester are responsible for supporting all laws, be they local, state or federal. Violation of those responsibilities is a violation of public office.

2. I do not. I have worked hard to negotiate contracts that fall within the scope of the tax cap once all expenses and savings are considered.

3. The top issue facing Manchester schools is the lack of curriculum and resources at all levels, but most notably in the elementary grades. Manchester Academic Standards have failed to create the structure we need. Common Core is a failure. Manchester needs to return to the roots of curriculum development and assessment of our students and educate them from the foundation up.

Thomas McGee

Did not respond

Ward 11

Alexander Avery

Did not respond

Katie Desrochers

Chose not to respond due to lack of primary

Ward 12

Kelly Anne Thomas, 32

Clinical Substance Use Intern at Serenity Place in Manchester

1. I do not support Manchester being a Sanctuary City. Right now Manchester is facing a dilemma with the drug crisis. I see first hand, in my job what we have to deal with in Manchester, and I work closely with the Fire Dept. We need to protect our citizens, and depend on the federal government to make the right decisions.

2. At this time I do not support a tax cap override. As Your school board representative I want to be able to make smart decisions on the budget we have in place now. Changes need to be made; for example, I do not believe health insurance benefits should be provided for School Board Members. This is an elected position; and we are here to help tax payers, teachers and our children.

3. Again, I’m sure when I’m elected I will have a lot more information. Having two seven year olds that are in the 2nd grade, I have seen that we need to do something to keep teacher and student ratio at a cap; and this means working on redistricting. My children have wonderful teachers; and I have been very happy with their education. We need to make sure that our teachers continue to receive the resources they need to provide each child, the best education we can.

Constance Van Houten, 68

Retired educator

1. As a citizen, I appreciate the richness of Manchester’s cultural diversity, a diversity built over many generations, and I do hear the concerns that some people have raised. The School Board, though, would not be part of any decision about making Manchester a sanctuary city.

2. The tax cap has a legal basis. Only the Board of Mayor and Aldermen can effect an override. Their careful assessment of the need for any override is what I will support as it is their prerogative to make such a decision.

3. Redistricting, in particular, ensuring fair and equitable class sizes and appropriately utilizing space in school buildings, remains a priority. As a School Board member, I’ve supported the critical step of commissioning an audit of school facilities. This audit will help to shape the next direction in redistricting.

Carlos Gonzalez

Did not respond

At Large

Nancy Tessier

Running unopposed

Richard Girard, 47

Radio talk show host, Registered Investment Adviser

1. No. I see no reason to attract more criminals and endangering our citizens by flouting federal law. Lawrence, Mass., is a sanctuary city. Need more be said?

2. No. When the people doing the job contend they are “out-manned and out-gunned,” the answer should be to hire the necessary numbers and provide the needed materials, not give whopping pay raises.

3. The undermining and sabotage of Superintendent Vargas and the constant false and personal attacks made by those with agendas designed to benefit certain connected people or achieve politically correct goals, not the district and it’s ability to educate Manchester’s magnificent kids. It’s correction is in the voters’ hands.


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